It’s early August and my friend Mike has invited me up to Mountsorrel for the weekend. He has provided a tent in his garden for the night, which will be my accommodation and we are blessed with fine weather. So a walk along the river, followed by a few beers in the pub and then a barbecue at his place seem to be the plan of attack. Nearby Leicester has been “locked down” again, thanks to the “Miley Cyrus!” but thankfully that’s 8 miles away, so we should be fine! So we set off after lunch from Mike’s house and in no time at all we’re out in the countryside and walking along the River Soar.
The River Soar
The River Soar is a major tributary of the River Trent in the East Midlands and the principle river of Leicestershire. It flows north through Leicester, where it is joined by the Grand Union Canal and passes Loughborough and Kegworth until it reaches the Trent at the County boundary. It’s 24 miles long and has 18 locks, it was made navigable from the Trent to Loughborough in 1778. At one time it was the most profitable waterway in Britain, until the introduction of the Railways led to its decline. These days, the broad and winding rural river, provides a much loved route for narrowboats, river cruisers, canoes and dinghies. It’s also popular for fishing and walking. Mike had planned out our route, which also included a few pubs along the way. We made our way along the river, passing a large group of fishermen and a gaggle of Canadian geese. Nice easy going walk, with a few stiles to negotiate before our first Port of Call, The Waterside Inn, Sileby Road, Mountsorrel.
The Waterside Inn (Circa 1795)
The Waterside Inn, is unsurprisingly situated right next to the River and has a Lock (Lock 50) to allow the boats to pass along the river. The pub was rather busy but we managed to find a table outside right next to the lock. The next challenge was negotiating the COVID19 one way system to reach the bar and order some refreshments. Due to the hot weather, the Everards Tiger was given a miss and a couple of pints of Thatchers cider were ordered. It’s certainly a good location, especially on a hot sunny day and we enjoyed a few pints, whilst watching the boats negotiate the Lock and waited for Mike’s girlfriend Nat to arrive. Once Nat arrived, with her very cute Pomeranian dog, called “Mr Woof Woof” we ordered another round of drinks … (Unfortunately, the walk has come to an abrupt halt for now!)
The Swan Inn (Circa 1688)
With the walk abandoned (for today!) we decided to move onwards and upwards and into Mountsorrel itself to the Swan Inn. The Swan is a great pub, a free house on the Main road that runs through Mountsorrel called Loughborough Road. The pub was converted from a couple of terraced houses that were built in 1688, it was originally called the Nags Head and is now a grade 2 listed building, built from Mountsorrel granite. With a choice of 4 real ales, I went for the Castle Rock Harvest Pale 3.8% and a very refreshing pale ale. Once again, we found a table in the extensive beer garden and enjoyed a few more drinks as the sun set. I am rather fond of The Swan, it’s been in the Good Beer Guide for many years and we’ve had some good sessions in there! It’s a friendly pub that has a good choice of well kept real ale and does good pub food. Highly recommended.
The Walk (Day 2!)
Mike Woodhouse gives us some more detail about our Sunday walk …
Soar Valley River Walk – Sunday August 2nd 2020
Sileby Lock is only a 5 minute walk through fields from my house in Rothley, and there is a fabulous riverside walk to Barrow-upon-Soar (via Mountsorrel), which usually takes about an hour for the 5km stroll. The problem however is that on a hot sunny day, you have to walk past the Waterside Inn at Mountsorrel, and it is difficult to resist, not to mention rude, to not stop for refreshments. This why, this is why, this is why, the walk started on Saturday, but was completed the next day because we didn’t manage to get past this point due to gorgeous weather, and prime spot right next to Mountsorrel lock, where (as Vic & Bob used to do), we watched the boats coming in, and then going back out again.
So, take 2, and we set off for Barrow once again, and this it’s the morning, so the pub is shut as we head past the lock and towards a large bridge known locally as the ‘1860’, simply because it has the year it was built in large numerals on the side, and this bridge is for the mineral conveyor that takes the granite from Mountsorrel Quarry (largest working quarry in Europe) to the Midland Main Railway near Barrow-upon-Soar, where it is sorted, and then transported all across the nation. Several more fields, and another bridge where we cross the River Soar, before the river snakes its way underneath the A6 and towards a large marina, and then bends left towards Barrow and the welcome sight of another great local pub, The Navigation at Barrow. No drinks on this occasion, and we contemplate extending the walk to Quorn, where I spotted a Kingfisher a few weeks earlier, but time is against us, so we return back towards Mountsorrel, taking a more direct route across country, dodging country pancakes, before we reach the village once again. A good 10k walk, in glorious sunshine, and certainly one of the positives to come out of the pandemic has been the re-discovering of local walks during and hidden gems that have we’ve not had the time or the inclination to enjoy, and I for one will certainly keep up as we return to some form of normality.
The 1860 bridge, with a 90 foot arch that carries the conveyor that moves stone from Mountsorrel Quarry to the Rail head at Barrow on Soar.